While the term "extreme sports" did not become popular until the 1990s, the sports themselves are deeply rooted in human culture and history. Some are almost as ancient as civilization and show no signs of fading away any time soon.
Early Extreme Sports
Most people have read about the Roman gladiators; prisoners of war, criminals and sometimes volunteers who were made to fight, often to the death, in an arena for public entertainment. The gladiator arena was as theatrical as it was dangerous with elaborate play-style war scenarios and situations often serving as a backdrop for the fights themselves. There are few sports that have ever been as extreme as the gladiator games, and while they have long since ceased and would be illegal in our modern society, humanity is still seeking ways to fulfill the need for adrenaline pumping competitions.
Lacrosse, a game invented by the Native Americans, sounds simple at first; use a long, wooden stick, with a mesh tied at the end, to try to throw a ball into the other team's goal. Simple though it sounds, the Native American people took Lacrosse very seriously. Lacrosse was not just a competition to see who could score points, the game had religious and spiritual meaning as well, and also served as war training. Games might last for days, pushing players to the limits of endurance. Broken bones, concussions and even death was not uncommon; the Lacrosse sticks were used as much as weapons as they were for making goals.
Modern Versions of Old Classics
Modern day extreme sports are no less exciting, even if they are typically less violent. Horse racing is an ancient sport that has roots in many regions and cultures around the world, but the modern version is a finely tuned and highly technical version of early equine racing. With some breeds of horses capable of reaching speeds of 40 mph, a single misstep can mean disaster for rider and horse.
Drag racing, stock car racing and off-road competitions are equally popular. The danger in these competitions are no less than that in horse racing; a turn taken too sharply or a slip of the wheel and drivers could lose control of cars going in excess of 100 mph. There is little wonder that fans and drivers alike feel a rush of pure adrenaline when the green flag drops.
Paragliding might be a relatively new type of extreme sport when compared with horse racing and car racing, but the desire to fly has been with mankind since he first observed the birds. Finding high places to leap off from and glide for miles on the air currents might seem like a relaxing idea, but the dangers are many. Jagged canyon walls or rocks, air currents that are too strong and make the glider hard to control and the simple fact that there is nothing between a glider and the ground but a few hundred feet of empty air all make this a heart-racing adventure that is hard to match.
Brenda Panin is a contributor to several blogs. She's an extreme sports lover who enjoys watching car and bike racing, horse racing and other modern day sports. She is a wab content writer for Pro Group Racing.